TORONTO, ON - APRIL 1: Group shot of new Canadians who originate from countries that are competing in Pan Am Games pose for pictures at the Pan Am Games celebration, 100-day countdown with citizenship ceremony for 100 new Canadians at the CIBC Pan Am/Parapan Am Athletes' Village Cooper-Koo Family YMCA building in Toronto. (Vince Talotta/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Clara Hick

Being a Canadian can mean many different things to many different people. Canada is made up of varying cultures, ethnicities, races, and religions, and this is what makes Canada such an amazing country to live in. What truly makes Canada unique today is our welcoming attitudes and actions towards others. We embrace others for their differences, and welcome people fleeing from their home countries. Accepting others is becoming increasingly important in our world, and is a key part to being a Canadian. It makes me proud to live in a place where tolerance is expected, embraced, and everyone has equal opportunities. Canada is also influenced by its rich history, and Canadians today learn from mistakes in the past in order to help solve current issues in our country. The Aboriginal history of Canada is so important, and is used to educate, and embrace these vital aspects to Canadian culture, and honour the Aboriginal peoples that have been treated wrongly in the past. Canada is a country rich in culture, acceptance, and history, and that is what makes it so exceptional.

Currently, Canada has been focusing on the Syrian refugee crisis which I think is extremely important. My family welcomed a Syrian family of five into our home as temporary housing, and it was an experience I will never forget. They arrived on the coldest day of the year in February of 2016, and they were still smiling despite the frigid temperature. The appreciation this family had and have for a safe, warm place to live makes me feel so grateful to have been born in such a peaceful country. The family had been living at a refugee camp in Jordan, but were originally from Syria. When they arrived, many residents of my town greeted them with smiles, waving, and signs showing their support, and everyone was bundled up to face the freezing weather. They were first-hand experiencing what it is like to be new in Canada, and seemed to embrace these new experiences despite an evident language barrier. They speak Arabic, and have since also learned English. It truly is amazing to see the support they have received by Canadians of different religions and cultures, and what others have learned from them. There is so much to learn from people with different views and experiences than your own, and there are many opportunities to do this living in a country as diverse as Canada. My town has since sponsored two other families, and is currently expecting a fourth family. I think it is fantastic to live in a country that welcomes people, and embraces their culture. As Canadians, we are so fortunate to live in such a peaceful country that is free of war, terror, and persecution. What makes Canada exceptional is not only that we are peaceful, but that we welcome others who are seeking peace.

Canada has endless opportunities for everyone, and embraces the differences between its citizens. The Canadian healthcare system provides health care to anyone who needs it, and makes sure that it is accessible to everyone. The education system in Canada is one of the best in the world, and provides opportunities for all to go to school despite financial issues. Canadian youth can go to school for free, and financial aid for post-secondary is given to anyone who needs it, giving boundless possibilities to everyone to learn, and become educated. This education positively affects our country as displayed in our developed economy, and society. Canadians all have equal rights that are honoured, and the acceptance in our country is amazing. Canadians have the freedom to be who they want to be, and express themselves with freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, religion, age, ancestry, ethnic origin, and more. This acceptance results in equal opportunities for everyone, making Canada a country that embraces everyone for who they are.

It is also important to recognize the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, and the injustices they have faced in our country’s past, and present. As Canadians, we all need to recognize the past, and work together towards reconciliation and justice. Canadian youth are educated on this history, helping the future of Canada to be knowledgeable about how our country got to where it is today, which is a vital part of reconciliation. Aboriginal history and culture is Canadian history and culture, and should be learned, treasured, and preserved as such. Many Aboriginal people have had to deal with residential schools, the stripping away of their culture, and currently other issues including poverty, alcohol and drug abuse, and the increasing rates of murdered and missing Aboriginal women. Canada is definitely not perfect, but is constantly evolving to better support and embrace its citizens. It is important to learn about the negative and positive aspects of Canadian history to know how as Canadians we can be better, and even more accepting of others. As Canadians, we focus on acceptance, and diversity. There is an unmistakeable mixture of people originating from all over the world, some being first or second generation immigrants, and some native to Canada, and all are welcome and have opportunities to succeed. We use our history to learn from our mistakes, ensure that everyone is treated fairly, and celebrate how far we have come as a country. The Aboriginal Peoples of Canada have been treated wrongly in the past, and Canada acknowledges and provides support for issues caused by these wrongdoings. Canadians all have their own stories and experiences, shaped by their upbringing and culture, but all fall under the proud title of Canadian. Canadians do not all look the same way, talk the same way, or act the same way, and that is what makes Canada extraordinary. We all fall under the common name of Canadian, and what makes it common is that we all live in a place that celebrates diversity, and acceptance.